Even the Queen knows about my light bulbs, says collector Dave

June 05 2016

MOST young males in the 1970s spent their spare time playing with Action Man, riding their Chopper bikes or playing Subbuteo.


MOST young males in the 1970s spent their spare time playing with Action Man, riding their Chopper bikes or playing Subbuteo.
Not Fishponds’ Dave Williams. From the age of ten he had better fish to fry, for Dave was busy amassing his collection of light bulbs.
Incredibly, 42 years later, he is still a huge collector of the delicate objects, which he describes as “fascinating”.
His interest was stirred after reading about a collection in the 1974 edition of the Blue Peter annual.
Bit by bit, he built his collection up and now owns at least 1,500 different bulbs.
Even the Queen has heard about Dave’s remarkable collection.
“It was my 50th birthday two years ago and I had an idea to see if I could get 50 light bulbs with some sort of provenance,” Dave said.
“So I wrote to lots of famous people and places and explained what I did and asked if they could possibly send a light bulb to me. I wrote to places like 10 Downing Street, the White House and Buckingham Palace.
“I had a letter back from Buckingham Palace saying the Queen was very interested to hear about my collection. The letter explained that as the palace gets lots of requests for items  they couldn’t actually send me a light bulb but they wished me well with the collection.”
Whilst 52-year-old Dave didn’t get anything from Downing Street or the White House, he did, however, receive a box of bulbs all the way from Sydney Opera House in Australia.
“They took the time to make a small collection of bulbs and sent them over to me. People all round the world know I’m mad now!”
Among the more unusual items is one of the spare lamps from the famous Eddystone Lighthouse, off the coast of Devon. It also happens to be his most expensive purchase at £40.
Dave, an undertaker by day and pyrotechnician by night, also has World War II bulbs and gunsight bulbs from Hurricane and Lancaster bombers.
“The smallest bulb I have is one from a wrist watch and the biggest one is either the lighthouse bulb or one of the big sodium street light bulbs. There’s also the most powerful one, which is about five kilowatts. There’s various different ways you can look at their levels of unusualness.”
Most of the bulbs have been given to Dave but it’s not unheard of for him to accost the odd workman he sees replacing bulbs.
“They don’t all necessarily work,” he says.
“Many of them have been discarded because they no longer work.”
So what is it about light bulbs that Dave finds so fascinating?
“They’re works of art. When you actually look at the different shapes of the bulbs, the different filament shapes and the gas discharge ones with different internal parts, they’re just fascinating things to look at. People automatically think of a domestic light bulb and don’t realise that there are tens of thousands of different shapes, sizes and styles for every possible application.”
Dave finds it increasingly difficult to get hold of original bulbs.
“There’s a huge resurgence now in the antique-style bulb and so many places have bulbs that look like the ones from the early 1900s as they’re great for recreating that olde worlde feel in pubs and restaurants. It makes it difficult to find old light bulbs. If you go to eBay and search ‘antique light bulbs’ you’ll get pages and pages of reproduction ones!”
Dave says it’s difficult to put a value on his collection.
“I have about 500 projector lamps included in the collection and they can sell for anything from £15 to £30 each so collectively they’re worth a lot of money. As with anything which has a hint of being old or collectable, the prices are going up and up.
“I’ve never actually counted them but I must have collected about 1,500. In one wooden drawer unit alone, there are 157 bulbs.”
By now, you’re probably wondering if Dave has a wife and, if so, how she puts up with vast swathes of cupboard space being taken over by light bulbs.
For the record Dave is happily married to Elisa, who herself is no stranger to the collecting bug.
“She has quite a substantial collection of Mr Men,” Dave says.
“If you can’t beat them, join them!”